In his book ‘Behold the Hebrides’, Alastair Alpin MacGregor (1925) explains how the people of the Hebrides are surrounded by the sea and it though the sea is part of them and they are part of the sea. He says it was known as well as though it were a member of their own family and that to them the sea spoke in Gaelic. He says they listened to what it said and from this they prophesied good and bad fortune, at home and abroad, and how by its sounds and moods they could tell what weather was coming. There was the ‘laughing of the waves’ – ‘gair nann tonn / gair na mara’ and sometimes this laughter would be mocking and derisive when a storm had risked life and feeble humans had struggled to survive it. He also describes the laughing of waves across a great stretch of sand on Lewis in calm and frosty weather as being “weird and eerie”.
In the Hebrides there are many descriptions of the sounds and moods of the sea. Here are a few of them.
Nualan na mara – sounds like the lowing of cattle
Buaireas na mara – restless sea
Gearan na mara – complaining or fretting sea
Mire na mara – joy and cheerfulness of sea
Osnadh – sighing of sea, like the breeze through pine and larch at nightfall
Caoidh na mara – lament of the sea.
He says that sometimes the sea is totally still and silent as though it sleeps, and the people nearby are lulled into sleep also; and he says that people who live by the sea derive their vision from it.
Martin Martin, writing of the Western Isles in 1695 says of the inhabitants of one of the small, then inhabited, islands round Lewis, that they took their surname from the colour of the sky, the rainbow and the clouds.
This paper reviews progress in Atlantic Scottish Iron Age studies over the past twenty years, with particular reference to a long-term programme of fieldwork in west Lewis undertaken by the University of Edinburgh. It deprecates the survival and revival of older conventional models for defining and dating the major field monuments of the period and region in the face of accumulating evidence for the origins of Atlantic roundhouses in the mid-first millennium BC, and discusses important new evidence for the first-millennium AD sequence of occupation and material culture. The material assemblages of the Hebridean Iron Age are contrasted with the impoverished and relatively aceramic material culture of lowland Scotland and northern England, and the importance of the western seaways in later prehistoric and early historic times as a distinctive cultural region is emphasised.
Well, this is a thoroughly argumentative place isn't it.
Follow the road to Bernera, easy enough, when you get to the bridge you should be able to see the stones above and left, park in the ample car park and go up, dead easy.
What isn't dead easy is understanding what on earth is going on.
The big stone you come to first has been set back up in a fairly inappropriate way, the packing stones are free of the ground , cemented together and stained a weird kind of red. But it is the best looking of the three big stones, shiny, swirling, quartzy and pretty. The other two stones aren't quite as pretty but no less impressive in size.
I first walk all around them looking from here and there, near and far, the one conclusion I come up with was I wish I had more time with clearer skies. This is a strange place.
It isn't a stone circle, or even a semi circle.
The other half of the circle cant have fallen into the sea as the outcrop on the other side of the fence is worn smooth over many more thousands of years than the stones have stood here. It can't have gone down there. I think it's three standing stones, which seem to be looking over the edge, to what was ever down there, perhaps a whirlpool, perhaps an ancient bridge, now underwater, perhaps there was nothing of note down there at all and the stones are astronomical in nature, they do describe a crescent, moonish by shape.
Who knows, no one it seems.
And dont get me started with the birthing chair, imagine your a woman and it's time to bring new and precious life into the world, would you sit on a rock above a cliff, outdoors. I know I wouldnt want that, it's just as likely to be a shitting chair, Lewisian gneiss is well known for curing constipation, or perhaps the king of lewis had his scat collcted as it erupted and then sold across the north of Britain as souvinirs.
But what a fantastic place. No where would a time machine come in more handy.